EDITORIAL: Chronic complaint

Fraser Health Authority review suggests care improvements won't happen all the while underfunding continues

The recent lengthy – and often delayed – review of Fraser Health Authority has suggested some worthwhile aims and objectives.

However, given the minister of health’s belief Fraser Health’s budget is adequate, don’t expect a lot of improvements in health care any time soon.

The review’s main conclusion is that acute-care hospitals are utilized more than they need to be by residents. Hence costs keep rising – given that acute care is far and away the most expensive type of care offered.

Why are people in the Fraser Health region – including those who consider Peace Arch Hospital their own – going to acute care so often? In many cases, it’s because they don’t have a family doctor. Population growth and a limited number of general practitioners mean that at least one-third of the population do not have anyone in the health system who sees them regularly, knows them by name or has a good handle on their medical issues.

Others have a chronic condition for which there is no option aside from acute care. The review notes the value of setting up clinics that specialize in treating people with certain conditions, or are part of certain groups. Unfortunately, only nine per cent of the FHA budget goes towards community care – with 57 per cent going to acute care.

Some people in acute care are awaiting admission into long-term care. While many new facilities have been built in the region, most are for-profit, within the private sector, and thus unaffordable for many. The number of beds subsidized by the province is limited, and consequently hospitals are unnecessarily plugged.

There are also limited mental-health services available, despite 17 per cent of the adult population and 14 per cent of the youth population struggling with mental illness.

NDP critic Judy Darcy points out that Fraser Health gets 28 per cent of the overall spending on health in B.C., yet is home to 36 per cent of the population.

The fact that specialist hospitals such as BC Children’s are in Vancouver offers only a partial explanation for this discrepancy.

Looking at the review, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this region has been chronically underfunded in health services for a long, long time.





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